Integrating Technology with Adult Learning Theory

Near the top of a google search for “adult learning theory and education,” I found the article “Andragogy and Technology: Integrating Adult Learning Theory as We Teach with Technology” by Dolores Fidishun, Ed.D., Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, presented at the 2000 Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference, Middle Tennessee State University.

The article begins with this idea:

The principles of adult learning theory can be used in the design of technology-based instruction to make it more effective.

I share this sentiment and one of the reasons that I have developed this blog is to learn more about adult learning theories and how these ideas can be applied to the development of online educational resources.

Based on the application of adult learning theories, Dr. Fidishun offers several suggestions for the design of an effective online educational resource, including these specific design ideas:

One way to help students see the value of the lessons is to ask the student, either online or in an initial face-to-face meeting, to do some reflection on what they expect to learn, how they might use it in the future or how it will help them to meet their goals.

It becomes extremely important for those who are designing technology-based adult learning to use all of the capabilities of the technology including branching, the ability to skip sections a student already understands, and multiple forms of presentation of material which can assist people with various learning styles.

The instructor must find ways to move [dependent] learners into self-direction by giving them short, directed, concrete online tasks that provide the most “learning for the experience” to make these adults see the relevancy of online learning.

The design of technology-based instruction must include opportunities for learners to use their knowledge and experience. Case studies, reflective activities, group projects that call upon the expertise of group members and lab experiments are examples of the type of learning activities which will facilitate the use of learners’ already acquired expertise.

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The “Real World” and the Internet

From the Pew Research Center on August 17, 2008:
Key News Audiences
The findings by the Pew study include this finding of an interesting type of behavior by Internet users:

A slim majority of Americans (51%) now say they check in on the news from time to time during the day, rather than get the news at regular times. This marks the first time since the question was first asked in 2002 that most Americans consider themselves “news grazers.”

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a perspective transformation

From an essay entitled “The Critics Need a Reboot. The Internet hasn’t led us into a new Dark Age” by David Wohlman, via Wired on August 18, 2008:

The explosion of knowledge represented by the Internet and abetted by all sorts of digital technologies makes us more productive and gives us the opportunity to become smarter, not dumber.

Think of Wikipedia and its emergent spinoffs, like Wiktionary. Imperfect as they may be, the collective brainpower contained within these kinds of sites — and the hunger for learning and accurate information they represent — is something human history has never known before.

… consider the Public Library of Science: By breaking the publishing industry’s choke hold on the circulation of scientific information, this powerful online resource arms scientists and the masses alike with the same data, accelerating new discoveries and breakthroughs.

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The evolution of the classroom

From the New York Times on August 16, 2008:

The educational bottom line, it seems, is that while computer technology has matured and become more affordable, the most significant development has been a deeper understanding of how to use the technology.

“Unless you change how you teach and how kids work, new technology is not really going to make a difference,” said Bob Pearlman, a former teacher who is the director of strategic planning for the New Technology Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

The needs of students have already shifted due to the development of web-based technology. The recognition of this rapid evolution seems to be a common theme in the news lately.

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The state of the Internet

According to Vint Cerf, via the Guardian on August 17, 2008:

The internet is still very young. It was only November 1977 when a group of computer scientists successfully connected three networks around the world, including one at University College London. It took until 1989 for the internet to become commercially available and about another decade after that for it to achieve widespread household use in Europe and the United States.

… Today, there are only about 1.4 billion users, representing a bit more than one-fifth of the world’s population, and a substantial amount of the content on the web is still written in English. But the internet is becoming more global. Asia has more than 500 million users and Europe nearly 400 million and internet-enabled mobile phones will help extend the net to Africa, Latin America and the Indian subcontinent.

… There are more than three billion mobiles in use today and more than 80 per cent of the world’s population live within range of a network. In areas where wireline or WiFi access barely exists, many new users will first experience the internet through a mobile phone.

with thanks to Slashdot for the link.

the Comment Wars

From Politico on July 23, 2008:

Across the Web, political sites (along with those dedicated to other mainstream distractions like music, culture and sports) are accumulating such a mass of reader responses that it is changing the very nature of the online exchange. Unique commenting communities, cultures and hierarchies have formed at various sites, distinguished from one another by the province’s ideology, protocol and professionalism.

There seems to be a tension between promoting individual expression and fostering a community in these kinds of environments.

Web sites ranging from the smallest of blogs straight through to The New York Times are struggling to discourage spammers and bomb-throwers without tamping down the larger, productive give-and-take.

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Web Tools for Educators

Several lists of web tools have been created and then revised over time by Rick Lillie, an accounting professor at California State University. He also has a blog that has a lot more information about web-based tools that can be used in an academic environment, and what looks like a new WordPress blog.

Web Tools on the August 8, 2008 list include:

  1. TokBox is a free Web 2.0 video messaging service. TokBox enables me to record up to a 15 minute video message. TokBox gives me a URL link that I can include in an email message. TokBox also provides code with which to embed a Flash player in a website or web page. TokBox includes a unique feature that enables video-conferencing with up to six people. My students use this feature when working together on a project.

  2. VoiceThread is a Web 2.0 hosted service that takes slide-type presentations to a whole new level. It is easy to create presentations with either audio or video support tracks. VoiceThread makes it possible to record “live annotations” while recording a presentation. The end result is a streaming presentation that greatly improves instructor presence. VoiceThread creates a warmer teaching-learning experience.

  3. Google Docs is a Web 2.0 technology tool that enables collaboration. A great feature is the ability to save a document in a variety of formats including Adobe Acrobat’s .pdf format. It’s free and can be used with other Web 2.0 tools to empower the collaboration process.

The lists can be seen here.